In the summer of 1996, several of us decided to go cliff jumping at a private rock quarry just north of Fremont, IA. We piled into Hillary’s car. Dave always called shotgun, so for any expedition on which he was not driving he was always in the passenger seat. He was so ridiculous, that at the mere mention of an idea for a trip in the future, he would shout out “shotgun.”
That put me, Cory, and Sara in the back seat. I sat behind Hillary, Cory sat behind Dave, and Sara was in between us. This is how we rode to and fro the rock quarry. I used the earth setting on Google Maps and was able to capture this picture of the quarry.
|Rock Quarry north and a little west of Fremont, IA
We had to hop a barb wire fence and walk through woods to get to the “beach” part of this quarry on the north east side. If you look closely at this picture, you’ll notice a slab on the left side of this quarry. That was where we would swim over, climb up, and jump off. Fun times. I still have a scar on my leg from one of our outings. The barb wire fence that we had to jump got a hold of me once.
On our way back to Ottumwa that summer, we had to go through Fremont. As we passed through town, there were two rough looking dudes at the gas station that appeared as if they were about to get into a fight. Cory yelled out “Kick his Ass!” as we passed by. A few of us chuckled and thought nothing of it.
Somewhere on 149 south, a van passed us in a very dangerous maneuver. There was oncoming traffic on a two lane road. Cars had to swerve to miss this van. The van then began to try and slow us down. Whenever we made a move to pass, it would pull out in front of us, and in front of oncoming traffic. They would not let us pass. Soon, a car came up behind us and pinned us from the back. There were various levels of panic among us all.
What happened after we were sandwiched in has played through my mind countless times throughout my life. It has plagued my mind and psyche.
I remember a long haired, fatter dude getting out of the driver’s side of the van, and a skinnier, short haired dude getting out of the passenger side of the van. They both were coming right at us. I completely froze. Dave got out of the car.
All of a sudden, with the dudes from the van still in front of us coming our direction, I was punched in the nose by the guy that had gotten out of the car behind us and approached from the back. While i was stunned and bleeding from the nose, he opened the back door and piled in on top of the three of us. As blood gushed from my nose, he was throwing punches at Cory while yelling “Who SAID IT?!?” using very slurred speech, reeking of booze.
The rest seems like a blur. At some point, I believe the guy got bored of us, sitting there in the car, not giving him an answer. Dave was occupying the driver of the van in the field to our right. He was defending himself. They eventually felt that time was no longer on their side and that cops could show up at any moment, so they got out of there.
We gave the cops are statements. They would eventually find them. I’m not sure what kind of fine was imposed on our attackers.
Even today, I want to relive that day so badly. I want to go back to the moment when we were pinned in, get out of the car, and defend myself, whether it was dodging punches or throwing them myself. But I can’t. I have to live with myself. Me. The guy who froze.
I would like to think that having had that experience, if anything like that were to happen again, I will be ready. Will I be? Today I have a cooler and calmer head, but can I get it into action mode if the situation calls for it? Or will it be too late, again, if that time comes?
Every time I think about this attack, I end up swallowing a piece of humble pie. I was never trained for situations like that. If an attack ever happens again, I’ll have to let you know how I handled it afterwards. Because there is no way I could tell you what I would do ahead of time.
The reason this event came back to mind recently, was because Erin and I watched the movie Force Majeure. It follows a Swedish family on a ski trip. An avalanche occurs that creates a state of panic. When it is evident that the avalanche doesn’t seem controlled, the father picks up his cell phone and runs leaving his family behind. No harm comes to anyone. The movie then explores the consequences of his actions, both through the relationship with his family and living with himself and his own psyche.